Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning's End"

So we have the possibility of Prague on the horizon. The family is interested in exchanging but would need a local university to "invite" the father, who will be on sabbatical too, to come here under its umbrella. Thus far, one local economics department has turned him down. He doesn't require any pay--just the invitation so that he can more easily get a long-term visa. In return, they are willing to help me get just such an invitation from a Czech university. Thus, if we can convince administrators to sponsor invitations, then the Prague plan will be a go. If not, our family will turn to Plan C, which may entail us eying Eurail passes and autonomous choices.

While we exchange emails across the ocean, here at home Paco has had a tough week at swimming lessons.  Having just been moved up to the next level (The Minnows!), he went to his first lesson Tuesday night and came out feeling woeful and non-talkative.  Only after much hand holding and an hour at home did he finally burst into the kind of shuddering sobs where speech is hard to choke out.  It seems that his swim teacher (who has been warned before that he needs to drop the macho energy when poolside) gave Paco the cue of "Go" to start a lap...and when Paco took a second to adjust his swim cap (ear infections and all) and goggles, the teacher then hollered, "I. SAID. GO!"  For a sensitive kid like our Paco, that was devastating.  He soldiered through the class before coming home to sob and sob.  Because I was just that kind of kid myself, feeling sick in the gut at any minor correction, I was all over making it better.  Put another way:  YOU DON'T YELL AT MY KID, BUCKO, OR I WILL SHOVE A SCREAM DOWN YOUR THROAT THAT WILL ECHO 'TIL SUNDAY.  Starting next week, he'll swim with a different group and a trusted teacher.  Harrumph.

Then last night, Girl spent her pre-bedtime hour sobbing and sobbing because, as she put it "I was mad at you and Dad because I was angry with myself, and I didn't want to be mad at myself, so I decided to be mad at you."  My head spinning a bit, I lobbed a few questions and discovered it all comes down to the fact that she doesn't have a best friend, and because she hangs with a group of seven girls, when they all pair off, she is the seventh, left hanging on the line when it's time to choose partners in the classroom.  I offered her inadequate words like "that just sucks" and "friendships between girls are always painful, but I can promise you they will change and keep on changing for your whole life" and "you do know that they all adore you, though...", to which she replied, "I know.  I know.  But I still don't have a best friend, and I have to live through this Right Now before the changes happen."  Finally, after I kissed her goodnight, her eyes started welling up again, and she whispered, "You're my best friend, Mom.  That's who it is.  You're my best friend."  Assuring her that I will try to be just the right kind of friend to her, however she needs one throughout her life, I whispered back, "I promise will always go on roller coasters with you.  And if you need someone to go roller skating, I can give that a whirl, too, but please promise to take me to the doctor when I break my wrist."  In response, she gave me a watery smile and a "But can we have sleepovers?"  "Oh, yes, my dear Girl.  We can.  I can also promise that when you fall asleep first, I'm going to put your hand in a dish of warm water so that you wet your sleeping bag.  But, to get me back, you can totally steal my underwear and freeze it in a block of ice."  With that, I backed out of the room; for the next ten minutes, there was only the sound of turning pages.  Then the light clicked off.

At the same time that we wade through travel possibilities and kid anxieties, Groom's sister has announced that she is pregnant. (Erin and her partner Ben--who own and run an organic farm and CSA--married themselves to each other on the Winter Solstice and then had Groom, who is certified thanks to an ad in the back of Rolling Stone, do the official paperwork a few months later.  And now...this terrific news!)

(a wedding photo of Ben, Erin, Groom, off to the right my mother-in-law, and Girl acting as official Signing Desk)

Parallel to Erin and Ben announcing their exciting news, Erin and Groom's parents, my in-laws, are wading through the dark, murky, exhausting process of putting not just one, but as of yesterday, all three of their surviving parents into hospice.  First, Groom's 96-year-old grandpa, Bestefar, began getting around-the-clock help and pain relief a couple weeks ago, and yesterday, just as Bestefar was finally being moved out of the apartment they share and taken to a new facility, Bestefar's wife, whom we call Bestemor (and who suffers from dementia but is still quite cognizant of being separated from her husband and of his declining health), fell in the bathroom and was wedged behind the door until EMT's and police could get to her.  Both grandparents were transferred to a new hospice facility yesterday; however, they are not assigned to the same room, which is perhaps the most awful and unjust aspect of these lives' endings that anyone can imagine.  Nearly simultaneously, Groom's other grandfather, who suffers from Alzheimer's and has been in a memory care facility the last few years, was also transferred to hospice.

Ultimately, it's all just eversomuch...

sadness and possibility and pain and anticipation and fatigue and ennervation and, well, life.

In the midst of all this growth and diminishment, the milestones of daily life feel like the happiest of respites:


Middle Aged Woman said...

Paco dans le bicyclette! C'est incroyable! C'est magnifique!

Voyager said...

A touching and lovely slice of LIFE, Jocelyn, thank you. The joy of acomplishment on Paco's face will keep me smiling all day.

lime said...

oh my, so many events of such magnitude swirling around each of your family members. makes those tender moments all the more precious, dunnit. big hugs to all the members of your household.

actonbell said...

First off: Prague! How exciting. I hope everything goes well.

You're a fantastic mother. Horray for Paco's ride! And your daughter is so smart and articulate.

It's scary, getting old, especially when it means being separated from loved ones. That does seem unfair and cruel, and makes us all the more grateful for what we have now. Wonderful post.

Jeni said...

On one hand, I have to say how awesome it is that your children have not just grandparents, but great-grandparents, who have been in their lives and they are old enough to have memories of them as they grow up too. And then there is the other side, the painful side of living when mind and body give out and leave for another place. How sad that it is taking place simultaneously for the elders in your life. One at a time is difficult enough but three? I will keep them -as well as you and your family -in thought and prayers for as peaceful a passage as is possible.

Prague sounds like a really exciting possible destination though and will be wishing good thoughts for you that an invitation for the gentleman there can be arranged!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

This is--life is a mix of ugly and amazing, blessing and curse.

Shania said...

Good for you, mama bear! We have to stand up for our sensitive wee ones. Silas had a meltdown yesterday because a third grader in his academy can read better than him (a kindergartener). He blames me because I did not get him the 'baby can read' program when he was a babe ergo it's all my fault.

Yes child, yes, it is.

I hope everything comes together in a whirling vortex of rightness and you guys can keep on keepin on.

Jazz said...

I feel for Paco. I stopped swimming lessons because some old teacher guy (who was probably all of 15) failed me because, "everyone passed except Jazz because she's too dumb to tread water for a whole minute".

I went home, sobbed and never ever set foot in a swimming class again.

And yet, I love water, and knowing how to swim competently would have been such a wonderful thing for me.

chelle said...

awww your poor sweet kids :(
Nothing is more heart breaking than kid's hearts breaking!

Your sabbatical is going to rock ...

w00t Paco!

christopher said...

Not sure who said it first, but it is, 'Life on life's terms.'

One family member at a time in a hospice seems painful enough. Peace be with all.

I'm surprised by so little...but I am still amazed at how many coaches still forget the age groups that they are dealing with at times. Luckily, we found a very quiet and well run swim program for my son, who is seven. But I was at his Little League game tonight and cannot believe how fiercely many of the coaches and parents focus on winning. I'm sure someday I will feel compelled to write about it at length.

I love the bike ride Art Buchwald said, 'the best things in life aren’t things.'

Good luck with Prague!

Pam said...

I have both parents and my mother-in-law all in their mid-eighties now and there are issues coming up where I know I will have to be brave and firm. Bravery, courage, and the joy our partners and children give us means heaps at this time.I pray all the time, please let everything be alright with these generations I'm in the middle of! How much we love is in direct correlation with how much we hurt, and we do!!(which makes the laughter even more precious).I feel for Groom's parents. It's tough.In the meantime,those kids are gorgeous,such a treasure to all of you, and the video beautiful.Like to add Jocelyn that your sensitive mothering of Girl, sets memories and examples that in turn, get passed on to the next generation. We grown-up girls( of grannie age now for me!!)never forget such moments of kindness.I wish there had been more for me growing up! There can never be too many, but you my dear, know that.Keep up the magnificent work. xx

secret agent woman said...

I was that kind of kid, too. Actually, I'd have teared up as soon as the swim teacher yelled.

Yo is Me said...

sweet, sweet, sweet. my heart swelled at the conversations with your kids. life, it's big.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

What a roller coaster ride - and I'm not referring to the ones you promised to endure with your charming best friend. I do hope that Prague works out for you and the Czech family, and that somehow a way can be found to put Groom's grandparents in the same hospice room. It is immensely troubling that this was not an automatic placement, unless they are going by gender which is plain ridiculous. I'm glad that Paco has other swimming options than stupid macho bully coaches... how is this guy qualified to work with children?

Chantal said...

Oh Paco is so much like my older son. Your daughters story makes me teary. Your family story makes me cry. So many heavy thoughts. Paco on the bike! Sweet!

Deborah said...

I echo Christopher's thoughtful comment about family members and hospices. It's dreadful that the grandparents have been separated - perhaps something can be done to make sure the hospice respects their emotional state as much as their physical one.

Life is harder for sensitive children, certainly. Your Paco needs an advocate, but the harder thing will be watching him learn to do that for himself. Fortunately he has a very good teacher in you, and I suspect your husband is on the same page. Daughter sounds like a wonderfully together being, knowing what it is she feels and why, and able to reassure herself, to compensate for what she's missing at the moment. What a gift she has! Many people never have that kind of self-awareness, and of those who do, not everyone knows how to take it that necessary step further.

I love the way you write about your life - you take the everyday and make poetry out of it, and along the way you drop your water-bombs of fun and wry observation. Such good writing.

Something will work out for you in Europe, if for no other reason that you'll damn well make it happen! Man, I'd hate to be in your way when you've made your mind up about something.

Loved the video!! What a cute guy! Paco, too!

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

Tell the Girl I am currently without a best friend, as they all live too far away. However, having a "best friend" is a little inclusive. Having a few "best friends" is much more fun. I have a couple of those and love how it has worked out.

Give Paco a hug for me...I feel his pain and hope he finds a better teacher.

monica said...

Ah Jocelyn - again you get me all in tears here, sitting here an early Thursday morning, just got in to the office... Life sure is filled with ups and downs.
Bestefar and Bestemor - those are Norwegian words! Grooms ancestors are Norwegian?
Girl sure is fortunate to have a mom like you, BFF and all... :o)

Erin said...

I love that Girl says that you are her best friend. Tis true...when all the girls are gone, mom will be there still.

How, oh how, did Groom's grandparents get assigned to different rooms? That breaks my heart.